The trouble-plagued National Australia Bank
believes it has stabilised its business and is now turning a cautious
eye to growth, foreshadowing a $2.5 billion investment
program over the next three years, reports The Australian. But the bank has been threatened with industrial
action after announcing its corporate “turnaround” would swallow
4,200 jobs – more than half of them in Australia, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

NAB chief executive John Stewart is taking a considerable risk, says Robert Gottliebsen in The Oz,
but shareholders are comforted because he has undertaken a similar task
in Britain.
Stewart’s first risk is trying to achieve four retrenchment
programs at the same time – two in Australia, one in Britain and a
smaller one in Asia.
All the management textbooks warn against such simultaneous
risk-taking, but Stewart had no choice. And he has managed to win
market approval for the key message he wants to sell – the
lunatics have left the asylum and the new team knows how to run
National Australia Bank, says the The Fin Review’s Chanticleer. Like Federal budgets, corporate turnarounds are better received if they deliver more than
expected, says Malcolm Maiden in The Age, just like the one Stewart hopes he is presiding over at NAB.

Lend Lease has finally admitted defeat in its battle for
General Property Trust, reports The Age. The global property group yesterday offered to let GPT go –
without any commercial deals or fees to be paid – so it could offer
GPT unit holders an alternative to the proposed joint venture
with Babcock&Brown that GPT’s own management
had concocted.

Lend Lease chief executive
Greg Clarke has made a remarkable backdown, says Stephen Bartholomeusz in the Smage.
And in walking away from
a 34-year relationship with GPT, Lend Lease has lobbed a
potentially destabilising grenade into the proposed Babcock & Brown
deal. But given GPT’s complicated management structure, it’s no surprise
when these two groups fell out of love, the split became messy, says
Elizabeth Knight in the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the AFR, ANZ chief economist Saul Eslake says no-one should
be fooled into thinking the tax cuts delivering in the Federal budget,
large as they are, represent the comprehensive tax reform Australia
needs. Australia needs the same approach to reforming the
income tax system that government took to its reform of the indirect
tax system in 2000 – lowering rates by broadening the base. But there
was no sign of any intention to move down that path in this budget,
says Eslake. The corporate tax system is also in need of serious
reform, says Hugh Morgan, president of Business Council of Australia,
in the AFR. The BCA views this budget as the first instalment
in the process of delivering a substantial and comprehensive economic
reform agenda and failed to grasp the opportunity to detail a wider
reform agenda.

The true measure of the amount of money sloshing around Canberra these days is
what Peter Costello is doing with the money left over after spending
huge amounts of election promises and tax cuts, says Mike Steketee in The Australian. At first blush, it seems like a good idea to put part of the
present cornucopia aside to provide for the future but some of the brightest economic minds of the nation beg to differ.

And the Oz reports that Australian money managers stand to gain more
than $350 million in fees every year from the government’s Future Fund
by the time it grows to a projected size of $90 billion by 2009.